Nature Based Solutions

Potschin, M. et al. | In: Potschin, M. and K. Jax (eds): OpenNESS Ecosystem Services Reference Book. EC FP7 Grant Agreement no. 308428. | 2016 | Book (chapter) |


The idea of ‘nature-based solutions’ (NBS) is now being used to reframe policy debates on biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, and the sustainable use of natural resources, among other issues. While interesting and potentially useful for those debates, it is a concept that still needs to be clearly defined; its use is not confined to discussions about ecosystem services and natural capital. For example, it is also used to describe such things as soft engineering approaches designed to enhance resilience and reduce risk to people in large settlements (e.g. Marton-Lefevre, 2012; van Wessenbeeck, 2014), and to work in the field of biomimicry and industrial design2 (e.g. Neves and Francke, 2012) – learning from nature, rather than finding strategies based on nature that would contribute to its conservation. However, by emphasising the utilitarian aspect of natural capital and ecosystem services, the idea of ‘nature-based solutions’ is clearly eye-catching and relevant to current debates about the links between people and nature. It is therefore wise to ask what new insights it brings. Is it intended to re-package the demand for sustainable development and nature conservation in a way that concepts of biodiversity and ecosystem services do not? Does it represent an approach to policy and management distinctly different from those already being applied? It is not altogether clear that it does. For example, the idea of NBS can be seen to encompass existing concepts such as ‘nature-based interventions’, ‘ecosystem-based solutions’, and particularly ‘ecosystem-based adaptation’ (see for example Rizvi et al, 2015; Andrade et al., 2011). A report from the Horizon 2020 Expert Group on NBS suggests that the concept “builds on and supports other closely related concepts, such as the ecosystem approach, ecosystem services, ecosystem-based adaptation/mitigation, and green and blue infrastructure” (EC, 2015). From another perspective, however, the use of the term ‘NBS’ might prompt positive changes in how some of these existing concepts are framed. It could refocus attention on sustainable development and encouraging consideration of biodiversity and ecosystems within solutions to wider societal challenges including climate change adaptation, food security, water crises etc.